“Here, I’m learning how to become myself and talk about what I see and experience on a day-to-day basis,” Yeury said confidently. It’s a Friday afternoon and the young community organizer is seated at workstation filled with computer monitors, headphones and camera parts. Surrounding him are the fellow members of We Are Culture Creators, a media arts collective based in Southwest Detroit.
Ranging in age from 17 to 22, the group is a talented collection of musicians, producers, videographers, photographers and visual artists from around the city, each bringing a unique perspective and collection of experiences with them. While each individual is talented in their own regard, the collective gives the young artist an outlet and network through which they can explore and develop their creativity even further in a manner that is beneficial to themselves and the group.
But the label “media arts collective” doesn’t quite encompass everything that Culture Creators represents to its members. For young men like Yeury, it’s an opportunity to be a part of a family that pushes him to be active in something larger than himself and create a positive impact on his surrounding community.
Culture Creators takes the sense of community a step further by also offering living space to its members to provide a stable, creative environment where they are surrounded by the people and equipment they need to improve their craft. Currently, there are 10 members living in residence with another 20-30 stopping by to work and collaborate on projects.
“Here, you’re not sitting down. You're pulled into a project, a song or video shoot. You’re always part of something,” Yeury explained. While other programs may simply provide activities to keep kids out of trouble, Culture Creators ensures that all of its members are important parts in the creative process.
When it comes to that process, almost everything occurs in-house, with the various creatives supporting each other’s work. Music videos are shot and edited by members of the group, with album and promotional artwork and photography being handled by others. By the time a music video or mixtape is released by one of Culture Creators’ artists, almost every member of the collective has contributed in some way, shape or form, making each piece a unique, community effort.
Even without any previous formal training or experience, members of Culture Creators can learn to hone their talents and produce professional quality content with the help of their peers. More importantly, they help build a community along the way.
In addition to helping meet the creative needs of Culture Creators’ members, there’s something else on the mind of the organization’s leaders: expansion. Their current location on Bagley Street, where they’ve been for the last three years, is beginning to get cramped with more and more participants coming through on a daily basis to work, collaborate, or just hang out. A sister initiative, Vinewood Magnolia, plans to develop locations across 12 blocks that include multiple studios, scoring room, merchandising house, performance space and agricultural area. The new location will also contain dorms in order to accommodate more artists who want to live with the organization full time.
Through their success in the My Brother’s Keeper Detroit Innovation Challenge and their continued creative excellence, Culture Creators looks to keep their momentum going and remain a positive and constructive space for young men of color in the city.